Jonas Neubauer, Legendary Tetris Player, Dies At 39

Illustration for article titled Jonas Neubauer, Legendary Tetris Player, Dies At 39
Photo: James Rexford

Legendary Tetris player Jonas Neubauer has died, according to a statement on his Twitter account, after a “sudden medical emergency.” He passed away on January 4, at the age of 39.

Neubauer was one of the all-time great Tetris players, winning seven Classic Tetris World Championships from 2010 to 2017. As he told Kotaku in a 2017 interview, he began playing the classic NES version of Tetris when he was eight years old, buying his first copy of the game after seeing it on the cover of Nintendo Power as a kid. Throughout his teens and early twenties, Neubauer continued to play Tetris on the NES. Eventually, he began uploading his scores to the internet, where he gained some visibility and was able to earn a seat at the inaugural World Championship in 2010, held in Los Angeles. He won a surprising upset against another top Tetris player, Harry Hong, beginning his rise to Tetris fame.

Neubauer’s playstyle could seem chaotic and wild, with him building tall stacks of blocks and creating messy Tetris boards, before deftly cleaning up and scoring big points. This was all part of his strategy; he told Kotaku that perfectionists “would be horrible at Tetris.”

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He told Kotaku, “The main takeaway from Tetris that people don’t realize is it favors people that make very bold, very quick decisions, and don’t get exhausted by them.”

In addition to playing Tetris, Neubauer worked as a taproom manager and at a marijuana startup, telling Vice in a 2018 profile that he saw himself as having “kind of a D-list celebrity.” He sometimes streamed his gameplay on Twitch. But to many players who watched him or competed against him, he was a Tetris god.

The organizers of the Classic Tetris World Championship expressed their condolences on the competition’s website, writing:

“Jonas, we miss you, we love you, and we thank you for inspiring us to always be our best. All the love to his wife Heather, his mother Sharry, his family, and friends. Rest in peace, our mighty hero.”

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Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.

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DISCUSSION

impartialrobot
Impartial Robot

This is so incredibly sad. I had to pleasure of watching Jonas several years in a row at the Retro Game Expo. He was PURE CLASS. Even when he lost, he’d earnestly clap for this opponent. He even gave high-fives to the students I brought along with me (my own little school retro game club). They adored him and his top tetris-ing skills and were surprised by his good sportsmanship in an age of trash talk and general foulness they often see in online competitions.

I accidentally met him at the last expo. Just standing in the main lobby, I turned around to find him standing right beside me. Like a star-struck buffoon, I blurted out, “Jonas?” and he turned to me and chatted for a few minutes. He had actually just lost his Tetris run that year, looked obviously a little down, but still gave the time and grace to chat it up with a fan.

I hope that he’s not only remembered for his INCREDIBLE Tetris skills, but for being the embodiment of sportsmanship, humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Rest in Peace.